A See-Through Triplefin Blenny on the Coast of India - Observation of the Week, 4/19/20

Our Observation of the Week is this see-through Triplefin Blenny, observed in India by @g_patil!

Gaurav Patil fell in love with nature as a youngster, inspired by the books of Jim Corbett. He decided on marine biology as the focus for his post-graduate research and, after working with sea snakes, he now works with coastal marine mammals and fishes. “But,” he tells me, “there is something else as well which lured more than anything, the intertidal zone

I got introduced to the intertidal zone exploratory walk in my college curriculum, but sadly I never took it seriously, until 3 years ago when I ended up being a part of ‘Marine Life of Mumbai’ (MLOM). Through MLOM, I got a chance to explore different shores around Mumbai, doing outreach activities like shore walks, talks, workshops etc., which helped me learn and express the intertidal habitat to a larger audience in a much better way.

Gaurav has been exploring the intertidal areas of Mumbai since 2017, and while he’s observed quite a few fish communities, he has never seen a triplefin blenny there, despite it’s “being one of the most common intertidal fish.” Nope, it was on a research trip down to the coast to Maharashtra where he photographed the fish you see above. Much of his time was spent at sea studying dolphin acoustics, but whenever he had the chance, Gaurav would explore the intertidal zone at low tide.

While I was focusing on photographing nudibranchs in the tidepool when some sudden movement happened in the neighbouring tidepool. I tried looking at the movement using my torch, but there was nothing. Again something moved and this time I went closer and took a look. For a few seconds I was speechless. I looked at it for a couple of minutes, moving in the tidepool and settling on the bottom (goby like swimming behaviour). It was a fish, as clear as the water in the tidepool, moving on the mat of zoanthids (soft corals).

I haven’t observed anything like this before, thus I rushed with my camera. But as the tide was already turned I managed to click a couple of photos, after which a wave hit me, making me wet as well as submerging the tidepool in which the fish was.

Gaurav eventually uploaded it to iNat a few weeks ago and top iNat fish identifier @maractwin identified it as a member of the triplefin family of blennies! “It was not only the long awaited first ever triplefin blenny for me,” says Gaurav, “but a memorable observation as well because of the fish’s unique appearance.”

Members of the Tripterygiidae family, triplefin blennies have three dorsal fins instead of the usual long single fin of most other blenniform fish. They spend much of their time resting on rocks or corals (in this case zoanthids) and eat mostly small invertebrates. 

Gaurav (above, exploring the intertidal) tells me he was introduced by @shaunak and @ajamalabad of MLOM, and that “iNaturalist has helped us (me and the entire MLOM team) a lot, in documentation as well as in identification. 

I had a habit of documenting natural world, but apart from just filling my hard drive it actually never helped me. Today, whatever intertidal data I have, I post it on iNaturalist and tell other people to upload their observations as well. Posting this data on such a platform is not only creating a baseline of data about this diversity but also in the future it might help several science students and scientists who work on not much explored topics from coastal India.

- by Tony Iwane. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

- MLOM data were used to (at least temporarily) halt the construction of a coastal road in the Mumbai area. 

- We wrote a blog post about MLOM and their use of iNat back in 2018.

-  Take a look at the nearly 3,000 triplefin blenny observations on iNat, they’re a diverse and beautiful family.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, April 19, 2020 21:03



Awesome shot!

Posted by markstratton about 1 year ago (Flag)

Wow, amazing photo!

Posted by ajott about 1 year ago (Flag)

Great work and great shot! Thanks for everything you do!

Posted by susanhewitt about 1 year ago (Flag)

That is so cool! Nice!

Posted by bug_girl about 1 year ago (Flag)

Marvellous! Not easy taking photos on slippery rocks.

Posted by chris_wahlberg about 1 year ago (Flag)

Nice find. Tidal pools are such diverse places.

Posted by chrisleearm about 1 year ago (Flag)

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